Silver City MainStreet Project

2011 Great American Main Street Award

Silver City, New Mexico,

Award Type: GAMSA

The Numbers

  • Main Street began: 1985
  • Population: 10,545
  • Net new jobs: 150
  • Net new businesses: 49
  • Building rehabs: 151
  • New buildings: 2
  • Vacancy rate when Main Street started: 40%
  • Vacancy rate today: 13%
  • Public investment: $2,165,075.00
  • Private investment: $4,637,334.00

Silver City is one of New Mexico's five original Main Street towns — and the only one that has operated continuously. Silver City's successes started small and have continued to grow. Their tremendous and consistent success has also had a significant, positive impact on the entire community. Silver City's Main Street success has established the community as a destination for arts and culture-based tourism and artisian-type light manufacturing.

In Their Own Words

While the success of the Silver City MainStreet Project has made vast improvements within the boundaries of the district, probably the most important success of the program reaches far beyond downtown Silver City: A change in the priorities and direction of the entire community. Silver City has depended on the whims of out-of-town mining companies and metals markets since its founding, and efforts to diversify the area’s economy prior to MainStreet focused primarily on attracting other big manufacturing operations – a daunting task given our isolation from interstate highways, airports and major rail corridors. The success of MainStreet has offered the community a new future, using existing historical and community resources as well as an incredible range of local talents to establish the community as a destination for arts and culture-based tourism and artisan-type light manufacturing. This new emphasis has attracted like-minded people from around the country, and has already borne economic fruit, softening the impact of the current recession and closure of area mines and reducing unemployment numbers from levels experienced during previous shutdowns. Success is evident in community support of MainStreet. Silver City’s mayor and council unanimously support the organization, and despite a reduction in available funds this fiscal year, MainStreet saw an increase in both its contracts with the town and in the amount of Lodgers’ Tax funding received by the organization. MainStreet events are on the front page of the local paper month after month, and downtown vacancy rates have remained steady in spite of the economy.

They're Not Done Yet!

Q: What are Silver City's plans for the next five years?

A: During 2010, Silver City MainStreet and the Town of Silver City completed the Downtown Action Plan, a state-mandated master plan for the district that was funded through NM MainStreet. The plan identifies 17 “key ideas” for downtown, including: “KEY IDEA 16 – Theater District - Create a Theater District centered on the three Bullard Street theaters of the Silco, Gila and El Sol as performing arts/film venues and cultural center hub. All three theaters should be restored and preserved. The synergy of three historic performing/cultural outlets in close proximity would be unmatched in New Mexico.” Implementation of this idea is already in progress, with MainStreet’s reopening of the Silco. Several private individuals are interested in purchasing and renovating the other two theaters downtown – both of which are listed for sale. “KEY IDEA 6 – Green Spine - Utilize the green “spine” of vegetated creeks to tie together the Town’s resources. Extend pedestrian facilities and add bridges at strategic locations.” MainStreet is developing a master plan for the Big Ditch, developing design standards for pedestrian and bicycle-friendly trail sections that can extend well beyond downtown along the town’s waterways. Following completion of the plan, MainStreet plans to pursue federal transportation funding to complete the downtown section of the park and trail. Other “key ideas” include reestablishment of a façade improvement program, more gateways to downtown, improved wayfinding, public art, intersection and parking improvements and interpretive signage for downtown. All of these areas will be pursued in cooperation with community partners.

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